Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Conciousness Journal of a Wargamer
  • .: Welcome to my blog :.

    I'm John R. "Buck" Surdu. I have two Web pages that contain relatively static information about my professional life (including papers I've written) and my hobby life (including information about rules I've written and my wargaming projects). This blog is where I plan to post personal tidbits, like vacation pictures, wargaming projects, etc. Enjoy!
  • Vader Raids a Rebel Outpost

    Posted By on May 20, 2015

    Turn one, showing most forces near their initial starting locations

    Turn one, showing most forces near their initial starting locations

    Last night we played another Star Wars Miniatures game.  Each side had about 160 points.  The scenario was an Empire raid on a Hoth Rebel facility to blow up some McGuffin.  I was, once again, the Empire.  Darth Vader led the raiding party.  Defending the compound were Han, Luke, Leah, and a host of Rebels.

    Luke vs. a Stormtrooper

    Luke vs. a Stormtrooper

    The compound only had two entrances.  The Rebels had a laser turret guarding one of them.  Although its Damage was weak, the fact that it could take 150 points of damage forced the Stormtroopers to fight a holding action on that flank while Vader and the main body tried to work their way into the other entrance.

    Early in the game: The Stormtroopers maneuver around the Rebels

    Early in the game: The Stormtroopers begin to maneuver around the Rebels

    Vader waded into a bunch of Rebels, brandishing his light saber, taking down a bunch of them.  Leah and the Rebel machine-gun looking thing with its three shots per turn hammered Vader.  He failed almost every light saber parry Force roll.  By the time he and three remaining Stormtroopers forced their way into the compound, Vader had taken 130 of his available 140 hits.

    Nearing the end game: A heavily wounded Vader and some storm troopers enter the compound

    Nearing the end game: A heavily wounded Vader and some storm troopers enter the compound

    An elite Stormtrooper fired on the device the Empire was trying to destroy but missed.  A hit would have ended the game with an Imperial victory.  In the next turn, the Rebels won the initiative roll (one of the few they won all night).  Instead of me getting a second shot on the device, the Rebels killed both Vader and the last Stormtrooper.

    My erstwhile adversaries

    My erstwhile adversaries

    The game was a real nail biter.  I am consistently surprised with the balance of these games.  They often seem to come down to the last couple of figures.  In this case, when Vader was killed there were only three Rebel troopers (none of the officers or main characters) remaining on the table.

    Corner Hotel from Multiverse Gaming

    Posted By on May 17, 2015

    I went to the Multiverse Gaming site (www.multiversegamingterrain.com) to purchase some of their fire escape kits to add to man of my pulp buildings.  While at the site, I found this corner hotel and ordered it.

    The kit is made of thick MDF, probably 3mm instead of the normal 2mm.  It assembled easily, despite the lack of instructions.  The light colored bricks, details on the doors, and window frames are made of thin card, much like a pub coaster.  The engraving on the surface of brick work was deep enough to make dry brushing quite easy.  If I have any quibbles, it is that the very thick MDF leaves a little “flash” where the parts connect to the boards.  This took a little Xacto work to clean off.  Also, the card bits seems a little fragile, and a very sharp knife is needed to get them loose from their board.

    Of course all the floors come apart for gaming.  One thing I find interesting is the construction of the doors.  They all have a small base, which can be seen above, that makes it easy to open and close them without the fiddliness and fragility of paper hinges.

    From opening the plastic to the form you see took less than four hours work.

    A Mall Video Arcade and Pool Hall

    Posted By on May 11, 2015

    A view of some of the video games

    A view of some of the video games

    A couple weeks ago, I posted some pictures of the gaming store I built for our club shopping mall game (http://bucksurdu.com/blog/?p=3858).  this past weekend, I spent all day Saturday at my son’s track championships and with the Venture Crew at an all-night relay for life for the American Cancer Society.  Despite that, I did have a little hobby time on Sunday to finish my second store for the mall.  This one is a combined video arcade and pool hall.  I want to build a rack with pool cues and find micro beads small enough to be billiard balls, but otherwise, it is “good enough” for a zombie game.

    A long shot of the combined arcade and pool hall

    A long shot of the combined arcade and pool hall

    The video arcade is in the front of the “store,” with the pool hall in the rear.

    A view of both the arcade room and the pool room in the back

    A view of both the arcade room and the pool room in the back

    A close shot of the pool hall

    A close shot of the pool hall

    The front of the arcade with faux stone

    The front of the arcade with faux stone

    A close shot of someone playing a video game

    A close shot of someone playing a video game

    When I was constructing the video games, they seemed too large for my 28mm figures.  But in the arcade with figures near them, they don’t look too bad.  I think they will make nice cover during the game.  I can also imagine players wanting to push them in front of the door.

    A Mention in Dispatches

    Posted By on May 3, 2015

    Cory Ring sent me this yesterday.  Apparently some folks are using my Santa Anna Rules for the American Civil War.  Santa Anna Rules was written for the Mexican American War.  It’s always neat to hear about folks having fun with rules I wrote.  Too often the only feedback an author gets are the slings and arrows of outrageous reviewers on places like TMP, blogs, and glossy gaming magazines.  At the end of the day, the reward for developing rules is not cash (there’s little of that), but knowing that folks are having fun with rules I wrote.

    G.A.M.E.R. Science Fiction

    Posted By on May 3, 2015

    The initial setup.

    The initial setup.

    Several of the HAWKs assembled this Saturday to paint figures for our Armies for Kids project.  After about three hours of painting, we set up an impromptu science fiction game using G.A.M.E.R.  I am still wrapping up development of G.A.M.E.R. for WWII, so it wasn’t quite ready for a science fiction game.  Chris had recently finished his Bones science fiction figures, and we wanted to get them and my science fiction figures on the table.

    Chris' forces in their initial deployment area.

    Chris' forces in their initial deployment area.

    The biggest things that I need to address for science fiction are how to account for body armor and stats for science fiction weapons.

    Eric's purple squad advances.

    Eric's purple squad advances.

    My platoon leader and "machine-gun" team

    My platoon leader and "machine-gun" team

    Eric hammers one of my teams with HE fire from his tank.

    Eric hammers one of my teams with HE fire from his tank.

    Ouch!

    Ouch!

    My Colonial Marines advance toward a rocky outcropping to seek cover.

    My Colonial Marines advance toward a rocky outcropping to seek cover.

    My Colonial Marines take up a good firing position.

    My Colonial Marines take up a good firing position.

    My anti-tank rifleman took out Eric's tank after several unsuccessful shot.

    Chris consults a subject matter expert for tactical advice.

    Chris consults a subject matter expert for tactical advice.

    The game was a near-run affair.  At first it looked bad for our side when Eric took out half my infantry in the first turn.  Then it looked better for us when I took out Eric’s tank and Dave started to engage Chris’ infantry who had entered the compound we were trying to capture.  It looked even better for us as Dave and I chopped up Eric’s infantry.  Chris sent one of his corporals to try hand-to-hand combat against one of Dave’s infantryman, but the corporal lost the melee and fell into a file of poisonous ooze.  But then Duncan arrived with some additional infantry.  Chris and Eric cut up one of Dave’s teams.  Then Chris moved around Dave’s flank.  I was in a strong defensive position, doing damage to Eric and Duncan, but I was not going to be able advance into the compound, so we called the game a victory for Chris, Eric, and Duncan — the “bad guys.”

    Recent Terrain Efforts

    Posted By on May 3, 2015

    With limited painting time last week, I didn’t get to paint any figures, but I did work on a few bits of terrain.  Greg pointed me at Underground Lasers (https://undergroundlasers.com/index.php?id_category=13&controller=category), which makes MDF terrain accessories.  For my ongoing effort to construct a shopping mall for a zombie game, I decided to purchase the Food Court set and the Arcade set.

    Tables from the Underground Lasers Foodcourt set

    Tables from the Underground Lasers Foodcourt set

    Air Conditioner or some other piece of machinery from the Underground Lasers Foodcourt set

    Air Conditioner or some other piece of machinery from the Underground Lasers Foodcourt set

    The sets came with no instructions, but it was very easy to figure out how to assemble the pieces.

    Pool tables from the Underground Lasers Arcade set

    Pool tables from the Underground Lasers Arcade set

    Pool tables from the Underground Lasers Arcade set

    Pool tables from the Underground Lasers Arcade set

    I think it would have been nice if one of the pool tables in the Arcade set was an air hockey table instead, but these are fun pieces.  I decided to leave most of the table bare wood and just paint the felt.  I think they came out fine.

    Playground equipment from the Ertl Farmhouse set

    Playground equipment from the Ertl Farmhouse set

    I have posted previously some pictures of the Ertl farmhouses that I assembled and painted to add to the town of Granville or other games.  Those farmhouse kits came with swing sets, a mailbox, and a mail box.  I ran across them in a bag the other day and decided to paint them up to add to Granville’s school yard.

    More playground equipment from the Ertl Farmhouse set

    More playground equipment from the Ertl Farmhouse set

    Sand boxes and school / dinner bell from the Ertl Farmhouse set

    Sand boxes and school / dinner bell from the Ertl Farmhouse set

    Mailboxes from Ertl Farmhouse set

    Mailboxes from Ertl Farmhouse set

    Guns! Guns! Guns!

    Posted By on April 29, 2015

    While I paint 28mm figures for gaming, my dad has always been more interested in 54mm (and larger) figures as display pieces.  He sent me these two pictures of recently complete projects.

    I think the metal track for the fortress gun came out particularly well.

    Ral Partha Chaos Wars Kickstarter

    Posted By on April 29, 2015

    Iron Wind Metals has announced a Kickstarter campaign (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1050509756/ral-parthas-chaos-wars?ref=discovery) to re-release the classic Ral Partha fantasy figures form the 1970′s and 1980′s.  While these figures do not have quite the sculpting of modern figures, I really like them.  They are much better proportioned than many more recent figures, and they don’t have those crazily oversized weapons like Games Workshop figures.  (It seemed for a while that later Ral Partha sculpts in the 1990′s tried to match the GW style instead of retaining their own, classic style.  How many of use formed our impression of what a goblin, else, or dwarf looked like from these Ral Partha figures?)  The Kickstarter has already achieved its goals, so this project is going to happen, and Iron Wind is a going concern, so I see little risk.  And unlike the Bones figures, most of these are suitable both or dungeon crawls and unit-based battles; the Bones figures are suitable as heroes and for dungeon crawls but not for battles.

    I still have some of these old Ral Partha figures painted and ready to game in a box with all my other minis.  I used to think I had a lot of fantasy figures.  A couple of years ago during a move, I opened up my box of fantasy figures and realized how few I have.  There were my three or four packs of Ral Partha dwarfs, some of the goblins pictured above, and a few others.  I used to run our miniatures games on two card tables covered by a wool Army blanket.  If I run a minis game today, it usually involves at least six players on a 6×10 table.  But those early games, when we and the hobby were new, were great fun.

    So why haven’t I jumped in yet?

    For me fantasy miniatures gaming has always been a side effort.  I played fantasy games when I was in high school and college, because they were a natural extension of fantasy role playing games like Original D&D and Tunnels and Trolls.  I even wrote a set of fantasy rules many moons ago.

    I can’t figure out if I want these figures from a sense of an old man’s nostalgia for bygone days of innocence before the hobby grew up and became overrun with sock puppets and incessant complainers and haters.  Or will I really paint all of them up and participate in — or run — big fantasy battles?  Also, the price is kind of high for a Kickstarter campaign.  Three dollars a piece for these Ral Partha re-casts seems high to me.  Since the project has received all its required funding, I may just wait until they are available on the market and pick them up a unit at a time to see if I will actually paint and use them.

    In any event, I applaud Iron Wind Metals for initiating this project and making these figures available again.  This is a nice development for the hobby.

    Weekend Updates

    Posted By on April 26, 2015

    40mm ACW Figures

    40mm ACW Figures

     40mm American Civil War:

    As part of the Armies for Kids project for Historicon (see previous posts and posts on Chris Palmer’s blog), many painted Confederates were donated along with many unpainted Union figures.  The HAWKs had one recent painting day to get the figures painted up.  A second one is scheduled for next weekend.  In the meantime, I got 11 Zouave figures from Dave and painted them this weekend.

    40mm ACW Figures

    40mm ACW Figures

     

    40mm ACW Figures

    40mm ACW Figures

    World War II Figures:

    Berlin or Bust Medium Machine-gun Team in Action

    Berlin or Bust Medium Machine-gun Team in Action

    Berlin or Bust has the only 28mm machine-gun team I have found that has both a walking and set-up configuration.  A set up machine-gun team is common, but the walking team is pretty rare.

    Walking Berlin or Bust Medium Machine-gun Team

    Walking Berlin or Bust Medium Machine-gun Team

    I wanted the walking team for the upcoming convention game featuring the G.A.M.E.R.™ rules based on the recent Last Battle book.

    Space Marine:

    Games Workshop Dark Angel to Stand in Front of my Hobby Store for the Zombie Shopping Mall Game

    Games Workshop Dark Angel to Stand in Front of my Hobby Store for the Zombie Shopping Mall Game

    Greg game me this Space Marine figure to paint up.  It will be set in front of the wargaming store that I built for our upcoming zombie game set in a shopping mall.

    Robin Hood:

    Robin Hood (?) Figure

    Robin Hood (?) Figure

    This figure has been sitting on my painting desk for quite some time.  I don’t know where it came from.  It looks sort of like Robin Hood, so that’s how I painted him.

    Dungeonmorph Dice

    Posted By on April 23, 2015

    I received these dice in the mail from Inkwell Ideas (http://inkwellideas.com) yesterday.  They look like they will be a nice way to generate one-off adventures off the cuff for fantasy role playing games.  I can even imagine using them for historical adventures or pulp games.

    There are three sets of five dice — or 15 dice.  That makes 6^15 combinations or 470,184,984,576 if you use all 15 at the same time.  All of the sides are geomorphic, which means no matter what you roll they will fit together.

    This company has some other interesting products.  It is worth a look at their Web page.  I will likely order a few more things from their site.